Indian Penal Code (IPC)
Section 511. Punishment for attempting to commit offences punishable with imprisonment for life or other imprisonment
Whoever attempts to commit an offence punishable by this Code with 1[imprisonment for life] or imprisonment, or to cause such an offence to be committed, and in such attempts does any act towards the commission of the offence, shall, where no express provision is made by this Code for the punishment of such attempt, be punished with 2[imprisonment of any description provided for the offence, for a term which may extend to one-half of the imprisonment for life or, as the case may be, one-half of the longest term of imprisonment provided for that offence], or with such fine as is provided for the offence, or with both.
(a) A makes an attempt to steal some jewels by breaking open a box, and finds after so opening the box, that there is no jewel in it. He has done an act towards the commission of theft, and therefore is guilty under this section.
(b) A makes an attempt to pick the pocket of Z by thrusting his hand into Z’s pocket. A fails in the attempt in consequence of Z’s having nothing in his pocket. A is guilty under this section.
CLASSIFICATION OF OFFENCE
Punishment—Imprisonment for life or imprisonment not exceeding half of the longest term provided for the offence, or fine, or both—According as the offence is cognizable or non-cognizable—According as the offence attempted by the offender is bailable or not—Triable by the court by which the offence attempted is triable—Non-compoundable.
Moral guilt and injury
Section 511 is a general provision dealing with attempts to commit offences not made punishable by other specific sections. It makes punishable all attempts to commit offences punishable with imprisonment and not only those punishable with death. An attempt is made punishable, because every attempt, although it falls short of success, must create alarm, which by itself is an injury, and the moral guilt of the offender is the same as if he had succeeded. Moral guilt must be united to injury in order to justify punishment. As the injury is not as great as if the act had been committed, only half the punishment is awarded. Attempt to commit an offence can be said to begin when the preparations are complete and the culprit commences to do something with the intention of committing the offence and which is a step towards the commission of the offence. The moment culprit commences to do an act with the necessary intention, he commences his attempt to commit the offence. The word “attempt” is not itself defined, and must, therefore, be taken in its ordinary meaning. This is exactly what the provisions of section 511 require; Koppula Venkat Rao v. State of Andhra Pradesh, (2004) 3 SCC 602.
1. Subs. by Act 26 of 1955, sec. 117 and Sch., for “transportation for life” (w.e.f. 1-1-1956).
2. Subs. by Act 26 of 1955, sec. 117 and Sch., for certain original words (w.e.f. 1-1-1956).